Ex-priest in prison for sexually assaulting altar boys dies

By Craig Turpin
March 1, 2016

The Rev. John Banko, left, and his attorney Lewis White listen to pre-sentencing testimony on July 15, 2003, in Hunterdon County Superior Court Judge Ann R. Bartlett's courtroom in the Hunterdon County Justice Center in Flemington.

The Rev. John Banko demonstrate his version of the hugs he gave as he took the stand in his trial in Hunterdon County Superior Court in Flemington on Dec. 9, 2002.

John Banko, left, and his attorney Lewis White, right, appear in court at the Hunterdon County Justice Complex in Flemington on March 17, 2003. Banko, a priest who was convicted on sexual assault in December for molesting an 11-year-old altar boy,

John Banko, a former Hunterdon County and Somerset County priest serving 41 years for sexually assaulting two altar boys, died Monday at the New Jersey Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge.

Matt Schuman, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, confirmed to that Banko, 69, was pronounced dead at 9:29 a.m. Monday.

Banko is a former Catholic priest who was convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting a young boy at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Milford. He was previously convicted of assaulting another boy at the same church, and was also accused of assaulting boys at other churches dating back to the 1970s, it was previously reported by NJ Advance Media. Banko maintained his innocence throughout the trial and an appeal.

The victim testified when he was between the ages of 9 and 10 he was assaulted several times in the church bathroom and threatened by Banko to tell no one. The boy reported the abuse to his mother in 2005 after suffering depression for years.

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At the time his mother asked authorities if Banko was still at the church and found out that he had been convicted in 2002 of abusing another boy.

Banko was found guilty of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and sentenced to 26 years. He was also serving 15 years stemming from another conviction in 2005. He would have been eligible for parole after serving 33 years on both convictions.

He was determined to be a "repetitive and compulsive sexual offender" following an evaluation at the Adult Diagnostic Center in Avenel, which also found he lacked motivation for treatment, it was previously reported.

In 2002, Banko was one of six priests who attended St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore who were accused of abuse during the 1970s and '80s. His name was released by the Archdiocese of Baltimore just after he was charged with sexually assaulting an altar boy between 1993 and 1994 at St. Edward's. He was convicted on that charge in 2005.

The victim, who was 6 when the assaults began, did not report them until December 1999. Three other men who claimed they were abused at other churches also came forward to testify, although no charges were filed and the statute of limitations had run out.

Banko was the pastor at St. Edward's until 1995, when he was transferred to a parish in Hillsborough Township. He had also been pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Montgomery from 1982 to 1989.


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